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General background about this state

Idaho Flag     Idaho Great Seal


  Coeur d'Alene
  Idaho Falls
  Post Falls
  Twin Falls

Idaho is a state in the northwestern region of the United States. It is bordered by Oregon and Washington to the west, Montana and Canada to the north, Montana and Wyoming to the east, with Utah and Nevada to the south.

  • NICKNAME: The Gem State
  • POPULATION: 1,595,728 (2012 est.)
  • CAPITAL: Boise
  • STATE BIRD: Mountain Bluebird
  • STATE FLOWER: Syringa
  • AREA: 83,570 sq. mi.
  • TIME ZONE: - North of Salmon River: Pacific - Remainder: Mountain
  • ENTERED UNION: July 3, 1890
  • ALTITUDE: High, 12,662 ft. Borah Peak
  • CLIMATE: Cold winters, fairly cool summers. Light rainfall; heavy winter snows in the mountains.


It was the buffalo-hunting Shoshone of the Great Plains who gave the name, which means, "behold the sun coming down the mountain". Nineteenth Century legislators created its panhandle conformation. In the north the "handle" reaches to the Canadian border. Folded, indented and crumbled as by the squeeze of a giant hand, it includes such mountain groups as the Coeur d'Alene, Clearwater, Salmon River and Sawtooth, and is edged on the east by the towering Bitterroot Range. To the south is attached the pan itself, the broad basin of the Snake River.

In neither area, north or south, is nature kind to man and his endeavors. Dry and sunny, the Snake River Plain on which most Idahoans are concentrated, is a productive farming area-but mainly because of the technology of irrigation. Here the land yields a variety of special crops such as dry beans, alfalfa and sugar beets. Best known of all the state's products are Idaho potatoes, famous for their size, taste and baking qualities. The annual crop is valued at more than $500 million.

The mountain region was, for a long time, almost isolated from the Snake River Plain for lack of north-south highways and railroads (the transcontinental lines constructed in the 1880's run east-west). In this ruggedly beautiful area lies Sun Valley, to which skiers flock each winter. On the Oregon border is the spectacular gorge of Hell's Canyon, at 7,993 feet the deepest in North America (although mountain He Devil - being the reference for the canyon's depth - is more than five miles away and not perceivable from the river).

Shoshone Falls Idaho
Shoshone Falls, Idaho

Mining is important to Idaho. Large amounts of lead, zinc, silver and other minerals are taken from the land each year. The state's hydroelectric power facilities and isolated areas have been useful, too, to the Atomic Energy Commission. Idaho once contained more experimental nuclear reactors than any other state. Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I) is now a U.S. National Historic Landmark, it was decommissioned in 1964. Located in the desert about 18 miles southeast of Arco, Idaho, EBR-I produced the first nuclear powered electricity available in-house, (it originally produced sufficient electricity to illuminate four 200-watt light bulbs), soon it went on to produce enough electricity to power its building. 4 years later, a nearby reactor plant called BORAX-III was connected to external loads, powering the nearby city of Arco in 1955. Arco, near Idaho Falls, was the first town to be lit solely by power derived from atomic energy.



  • Arco was the first city in the world to be lighted with electricity generated by nuclear power.
  • To prepare for missions to the moon, NASA's Apollo astronauts spent time learning about volcanic rocks at Craters of the Moon National Monument.
  • The Big Wood River, sometimes known as the Upside Down river, has the curious feature of changing from 100 feet wide by 4 feet deep to 4 feet wide by 100 feet deep a short distance away.
  • Five of history's pioneer trails, including the Oregon Trail and the California Trail, cross Southern Idaho. Wagon ruts are still visible all along the rugged terrain.
  • Crystal Ice Cave is a remarkable underground chamber containing a frozen river, waterfall, and other formations all preserved at a consistent 32 degrees Fahrenheit even when the outside temperature is 95-97 degrees.
  • Silver Valley in northern Idaho is one of the top 10 mining districts in the world. The area has produced more than $4 billion in precious metal since 1884.


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